CHICAGO (AP) The roars for Derrick Rose started with the pregame introductions and did not fade until the final buzzer.
The Chicago Bulls superstar was back on his court, back in his element.
Rose showed some of his old explosiveness, fellow Chicago product Anthony Davis scored 20 points, and the U.S. beat Brazil 95-78 on Saturday night in a tuneup for the World Cup of Basketball.
With deafening cheers rocking the arena, Rose looked like an MVP at times even if he only had seven points. He also seemed happy to defer to his teammates in his first appearance at the United Center since his latest season-ending knee injury.
”I think everybody’s excited,” Rose said. ”It was cool. At the same time, I can’t get big-headed about it or anything like that. I’ve just got to keep poised.”
What he needs to be is the player he was – or close to it -before the knee injuries started to pile up. A torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and a torn meniscus in his right knee two of the past three seasons derailed a rocketing rise from the city’s South Side to the No. 1 pick in the draft and stardom with his hometown team.
The Bulls are counting on Rose to lead them back to contention in the Eastern Conference after they added some key pieces, including Pau Gasol.
”For Derrick, there are so many positives for this,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, a U.S. assistant. ”He shakes the rust off. He has a tremendous amount of pride. It’s something that he wants to do and believes that he should do. I think this will be great preparation for the season.”
Davis, who like Rose grew up on Chicago’s South Side, dominated down the stretch, and the U.S. pulled away after Brazil kept it close for three quarters.
With a five-point lead going into the fourth, the U.S. went on a 14-2 run to break open a 68-63 game.
Klay Thompson nailed a 3-pointer to start it, and Davis took over.
He hit two free throws and blocked a shot by Larry Taylor, leading to a three-point play for James Harden.
Davis then threw down an alley-oop dunk to make it a 15-point game, and after Leandro Barbosa scored for Brazil, he nailed a jumper. Harden (18 points) finished the run with two free throws, making it 82-65.
Tiago Splitter scored 16 for Brazil.
Fans started chanting, ”We want Rose!” with their favorite player watching from the sideline as the U.S. pulled away. They got their wish when he checked back in with 5:20 left and let out yet another loud roar, although coach Mike Krzyzewski insisted he wasn’t catering to the crowd.
That’s how it was all night for Rose.
Fans showed up in Bulls No. 1 jerseys – he’s No. 6 for the U.S. They gave him a deafening ovation and chanted ”MVP! MVP!” during the introductions and went wild again as he grabbed the microphone for a heartfelt address to the crowd before the opening tip. He referenced the violence in Chicago and said this game was ”huge for the city.”
The U.S. might not have as much star power as it has in the past, particularly with MVP Kevin Durant and others withdrawing and Paul George suffering a gruesome leg injury. Even so, the U.S. was looking good with a 29-15 lead through the first quarter.
Rose really didn’t go hard to the rim until early in the second, when he beat Raul Neto with a crossover and got fouled. He made 1 of 2 free throws as the crowd chanted ”MVP! MVP!” Moments later, he blew a wide-open tomahawk dunk, sending a groan through the arena, and he also headed to the locker room with a cut near his left eye with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the half.
Brazil, meanwhile got within 35-33 on a basket by Splitter with 4:27 left. But the U.S. led 45-37 at the half after Rose raced up the court for a floater at the buzzer to the crowd’s delight after two free throws by Nene.
Rose had them roaring again when he beat Neto and switched to his left hand in midair on a drive with just over 3:30 left in the third, making it 64-53.
”Playing against this competition, I was just trying to get my wind back,” Rose said. ”I am going hard at practice and pushing myself every day.”